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“Your TV has been hacked.” Just a few years ago, this nonsensical statement would’ve been enough to render most of us confused. On top of computers and mobile phones, you’re telling me that my television can be hacked now, too? If you have a Smart TV, then yes, it can be hacked.

The good news is that it isn’t a rampant phenomenon… yet. The day is soon coming, however, when you may need to install anti-virus and anti-malware software onto your TV to keep it safe. Sounds weird, I know, but don’t brush it aside. Now is the best time to be educated and prepared.

What Are Smart TVs?

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If you’re panicking, stop and take a breath for a second. You’re only at risk of a hacked TV if you own and operate an Internet-connected Smart TV. After all, television itself has been around for decades without much security incidence. The risk only arises when Internet connectivity is introduced.

What is a Smart TV? James was pretty thorough with his Smart TV overview What Is a Smart TV & 6 of the Best On The Market Today What Is a Smart TV & 6 of the Best On The Market Today Most televisions you look at now will be smart TVs, but what is a smart TV and which ones are the best on the market right now? Read More which also explains whether or not you should even purchase one. Long story short, a Smart TV is the hybrid child of the television and the computer. It can browse the web, install and run apps, respond to voice commands, and more.

Again, let me restate: Smart TVs are not inherently compromised in terms of security. You only need to worry if you have a Smart TV that actively uses the Internet. That latter part is what’s important.

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What Happens When A Smart TV Is Hacked?

smart-tv-can-be-hacked

The biggest danger is that you can be spied on by anyone. In light of the NSA’s PRISM scandal What Is PRISM? Everything You Need to Know What Is PRISM? Everything You Need to Know The National Security Agency in the US has access to whatever data you're storing with US service providers like Google Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook. They're also likely monitoring most of the traffic flowing across the... Read More of yesteryear, privacy and spying have launched to the forefront of the web’s biggest topics to talk about. Perhaps it’s fitting that the latest evolution in entertainment media continues to house those same risks.

Last year’s Black Hat conference showed us that multiple Smart TV models possess vulnerabilities that can be exploited such that:

  • cameras can be turned on and off.
  • social apps, like Facebook and Skype, can be taken over.
  • files can be accessed and modified.

Throw some malware into the mix and you’ll start to see just how scary these vulnerabilities can be. And while there is potential for personal damage (corrupted files, broken TV, or social media scandals), perhaps the worst thing is the constant fear of whether or not someone is watching you through the TV.

For those wondering if Smart TV viruses can spread: if you hold any sort of contact information in your Smart TV and the virus gets a hold of it, yes, it can spread.

How Can You Prevent It?

smart-tv-how-to-stay-safe

Here’s a bit of silver lining. Despite the existence of vulnerabilities, there haven’t been any big worms that have taken advantage of them. It’s hard to determine the best defense against an attack when the attack doesn’t technically exist yet. However, the principles of security can be taken from elsewhere and applied here.

  • Stay updated. Manufacturers will do their best to patch security holes so it’s in your best interest to stay updated with the latest firmware. Try not to skip them unless you have a good reason to do so.
  • Use firewalls. Any device that connects to the Internet should be guarded by a firewall and your Smart TV is no exception. For now, your best bet is a router-based firewall and any built-in firewall settings that your Smart TV might have.
  • Malware scans. This will depend on how advanced your Smart TV is, but if you have access to a malware scanner app, you should use it. Remember to keep that up to date, too.
  • Camera security tactics can be borrowed from methods of webcam security Hack Attack: How To Keep Your Webcam Secure From Online Peeping Toms Hack Attack: How To Keep Your Webcam Secure From Online Peeping Toms What would you do if someone had control of your webcam without your knowledge? Fortunately, there are ways to keep yourself clean from these online peeping Toms. Read More . Always assume your camera is on and never do anything in front of it that you wouldn’t want accidentally broadcasted. If you’re really paranoid, cover the Smart TV camera with a piece of tape.
  • Skip the Smart TV. When it comes down to the last resort, you can always pass over the Smart TV and stick with a traditional TV.

Be Vigilant And Stay Updated

As it turns out, the Internet continues to prove that it’s a giant pain in the neck. Constant vigilance is required nowadays, first with your computer, next with your mobile phone, and now with your Smart TV. You’re most susceptible when you put your guard down so keep your eyes open.

Do you own a Smart TV? What do you know about these vulnerabilities? Is this enough to make you worried or does it not faze you at all? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Image Credits: Smart TV Remote Via Shutterstock, White Noise Via Shutterstock, Firmware Update Via Shutterstock

  1. Ficklefinger
    December 20, 2015 at 1:59 am

    If someone hacks your phone or tv, does it leaves cookies or any proof behind?

  2. r. hardage
    February 9, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    I have been hacked 3 times on my smart tv...I am throwing it out the door now that I know it can watch you and does hack into your facebook .

    • Anonymous
      April 15, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Tell us what the name of your TV is so we are informed.

    • C.
      May 22, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      We've just been hacked! How long did yours last and how do we stop it?!

  3. Don Groover
    February 9, 2015 at 12:30 am

    Soon, given the NSA is already hacking everything we do, every device in your home will able any government official will be able to listen to everything you say and see everything you do.

    Big Brother is here. Just a few weeks ago, a wanted criminal was reportedly arrested by the police by watching inside the home of one his associates. Without needing a court order, the police were able to look inside of the friend's living room through his X-Box Camera.

    Supposedly anyone with Microsoft's permission can use the X-Box Camera system to listen and watch you without your permission or knowledge because when you hook an X-Box up you waive your right to privacy because you are using Microsoft Owned software.

    Now with the governments say so (law or Presidential Decree) any electronic device or appliance can be required to have Wi-Fi Capability and a circuit that has a microphone and even a video camera that is capable of being use to listen and watching anyone in your home.

    Eventually your home will be equipped with a computer that can recognize your voice, lock or unlock doors, start your bath for you, tell you whether or not the washing machine/dryer is finished washing and drying your clothes, turn the oven on and set its temperature and a timer, The possibilities are almost endless. And it can be used by the government to monitor you as well.

    • God
      March 16, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      I think you're all a bunch of paranoid idiot

  4. karl
    January 4, 2015 at 8:37 pm

    If my smart tv is connected to my home wlan, is that a risk to computers on my home network. If so, how to protect?

  5. TVW
    May 28, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    How do you fancy your login being associated with your viewing habits - channels watched, adverts seen?

  6. Jay
    May 28, 2014 at 7:03 am

    This is great market in the years to come for antivirus companies that sell fear to people.

  7. Otto
    May 27, 2014 at 4:02 am

    Following up on my earlier remark about smart TVs, I thought of another appliance I never considered could be hacked, before reading your piece. It's not connected to the internet. Last year, I got a clothes dryer which is fully digital, programmable, and works great. If there's a problem, I can hold my smartphone up to it so a tech person on the other end can analyze & theoretically repair it. Not that I've had to do that, but it's there. After reading your piece, I figure someone with a smartphone who wanders into my garage can conceivably hack my dryer. Sorry I've gone off-subject, but it is funny, isn't it? Before you know it, we'll have homes where practically anything will be hackable! Thanks, again, for getting me to think about this issue.

    • Joel L
      June 6, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      Haha, that's a strange situation indeed, but pretty scary if it ever were to come true. In the near future, it may be impossible to draw the line between "cautious" and "paranoid" when dealing with any electronics.

  8. Otto
    May 27, 2014 at 12:33 am

    Interesting piece. I've had a Panasonic smart TV for two-and-a-half years now. I have a router-based firewall, so I'm not too concerned, especially since I rarely use Facebook on the TV. I mostly watch programming, stuff off my TIVO, and Netflix on it. The other 3 TVs in my house are not yet "smart", so they're not a problem. Thanks for the info!

    • Joel L
      May 27, 2014 at 2:14 am

      I also have a smart TV and I only use it for Netflix access. As long as you cover the camera with tape and never use the smart TV for sensitive data (like credit card numbers), then you should be all right.

  9. Rushnosh
    May 27, 2014 at 12:30 am

    I suspect the XBOX and PS have been at risk way back when xbox and PS first got connected.
    Heck we already have hacked xboxs and PS (of what we call modded boxes)...

  10. Godel
    May 26, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Then there's the problem of manufacturers of smart TVs using them to spy on the owners. Anyone thinking of buying a smart TV should check out the links in this Slashdot story.

    http://entertainment.slashdot.org/story/14/05/21/1456206/declining-lgs-new-ad-friendly-privacy-policy-removes-features-from-smart-tvs

    LG have previously got themselves into trouble on privacy issues. There was another recent story about a 42 inch LG TV where if you plugged a media server/NAS directly into the TV via USB, it would scan for all the media files on the disk and send info to an internet address. After being discovered LG issued a firmware update to stop this, but the firm obviously has history with this kind of thing.

    If one company gets away with it, others won't be far behind. :-(

  11. rdoolittle
    May 26, 2014 at 11:01 pm

    What's nest? XBOX and PS.

    • digidy
      May 6, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      Lol Xbox and PlayStation already have apps for internet security... Keep up mate nin about since before this article. A 16year old hacker hacked Sony a few years back during an Xbox vs PlayStation argument.

  12. Grcoeeg
    May 26, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    I have two smart TV's, but as of yet have not connected them to the WiFi router. So far I have been using my Roku 3 that is hard wired into one of them. So, as of now I don't think I will ever hook either smart TV to the internet after reading this article. " When will it end ".

    • ron
      May 27, 2014 at 4:11 am

      Groeeg, how is your Roku connected to the internet, through a firewall / router? If not, your devices are exposed.

      The point has already been made, this story is just the lead on security in the "Internet of Things" ("IOT"). Any "smart" device that connects to a network has to be treated as a potential exposure risk (I won't call it a threat).

      That means, smart phones (!), smart cars etc.

      Our best defense is being vocal about device security. We have to EMPHATICALLY make the point to the device manufactures that we REQUIRE they plan for security and BUILD IT IN to ALL of their devices from the ground up. Retroactively "bolting-on" security after the fact is an unfortunate cludge that is usually ineffective.

      Before buying, we have to research the product to see what security is built in. If the security is inadequate, we have to contact them and tell them why they are losing sales.

      Public articles like this are also a good way of pushing manufacturers to do the necessary thing, build in security.

  13. usainsabah
    May 26, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Digital TV's have been around for more than a decade. They have 2-way capability. Originally the idea was for homeland security. In order for the government to gain access to private digital TV's a security act was passed allowing the government to actually spy on private citizens and able to invade everyone's privacy. In the name of National Security. One reason why they don't use the lower frequency airwaves now. Everything now is done by digital frequency. NSA also has the capability to not only listen in on your cell phone or TV communications but also activate at their will and webcam or cell phone camera. If it is wireless or cabled to the Internet it can be logged into. Don't be fooled thinking you are safe from spying eyes or ears. Big brother is into everything in the name of National Security.

  14. Stan Grabowski
    May 26, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    Very good article. What about streaming devices such as Roku?

    • Joel L
      May 27, 2014 at 2:12 am

      I don't know enough about devices like the Roku to comment on their potential vulnerabilities. As a general rule, though, I would be careful with ANY device that connects to the Internet. Not that you should be paranoid, but caution is always good.

    • Drew
      May 27, 2014 at 4:27 am

      I doubt Rokus are vulnerable. They update automatically by phoning home every time they connect to the internet, much to the chagrin of those of us who would like to root them; Roku has them locked down very tightly and to date, hacking them isn't possible. That's not to say some clever hacker hasn't figured out a way to attack the apps, but loads of people have been working on jail breaking the Roku for some time with no success.

  15. GottZ
    May 26, 2014 at 5:56 am

    i choose not to have a Smart-TV. i just bought an expensive / huge / awesome / good looking TV that only has all the required features in order to display stuff from HDMI onto the Screen.
    my Raspberry Pi with XBMC is doing all the Multimedia streaming from PC and the intarwebz.
    Remote Control over HDMI even let me use my TV Remote for XBMC.

    no need for such garbage as a Smart-TV cause in my opinion its not made by Smart people.

  16. Dave
    May 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    This subject had already crossed my mind when I treated myself to a Panasonic so-called smart TV not so long ago. It's behind a router, as I have four computers in the house, so that's one level of protection but that presumably still doesn't stop nasties getting in via the USB port if a stick loaded with tailored malware was plugged in. I frequently use a stick to show home videos on friends' sets, so I'm assuming something like that scenario could easily happen if some villain was so inclined!

  17. Carolyn B
    May 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    Oh no! We just bought a smart tv. It is internet connected and we use it all the time for youtube.

    • Joel L
      May 26, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      It's nothing to worry about yet. Just be aware of the risks and practice good habits!

  18. dragonmouth
    May 24, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    "Smart TVs Are A Growing Security Risk: How Do You Deal With This?"
    I use a dumb TV.

    • Joel L
      May 25, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      That's about as smart as it gets.

  19. Thierry Lafaye
    May 24, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Never thought about that risk actually, so it's a good point you mention this risk and detailed what measures can be taken to prevent this from happening.

    Thinking about such risk, probably a lot can be also applied to any "smart" device that connects to the Internet. Now smart digital cameras, smartwatches, sport digital gears and the lot have a degree of connexion to networks and the Internet so you may also want to keep an eye on those ones too.

    Good article indeed!

    • Joel L
      May 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      As long as people are educated about it, I think we'll be fine. You're right though - as technology advances, we'd be better off if we thought about the potential risks of the various devices that we use day in and day out.

  20. Alan W
    May 24, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    I have a SamSung Smart TV and have never had any reason to be worried about it and security. Thats not to say it cant or wont happen but it hasnt as yet.

    • Joel L
      May 25, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      Yeah, there aren't many Smart TV viruses going around or anything, but it's always better to be prepared. At this point, awareness about potential risks is the important thing.

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